Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing has been named master publishing licensee in the U.S. and Canada for the relaunch of Teletubbies. The new TV series, licensed by DHX Media, debuted on Nick Jr. on Memorial Day.
“We’re always looking for new properties, for preschool especially,” says Valerie Garfield, v-p and publisher of novelty and licensed publishing. She points out that television viewership has changed over the years, with children even under 12 months now watching certain shows made just for them and parents embracing books based on those shows.
“Things have changed, and the demos are getting younger and younger,” she explains. “Parents are looking for content that’s safe, where you can watch the show or read the book and not worry. So we’re always looking for what’s out there for the very youngest viewer.”
Garfield believes this property is a good fit with that mission. “Teletubbies is often the first viewing experience for preschoolers,” she says. “It’s a nice, gentle, slow show.” She also notes that first-generation fans of Teletubbies are now parents themselves and have fond memories of the property.
Simon & Schuster has rights for all formats but will concentrate on board books, 8x8s, and novelty books for ages 1–3. The first list of four books, including an 8x8, an 8x8-plus with value-added materials, a shaped board book, and a tabbed board book, will release in June 2017, on the heels of Spin Master’s introduction of Teletubbies toys in the first quarter of that year.
Unlike many reintroductions of classic TV series, Teletubbies hasn’t changed much from the original incarnation, which ran on PBS Kids from 1997 to 2001. (Scholastic was the publisher during the first go-round.) A few colors are brighter, some of the gadgets have been modernized, and the characters’ tummies feature tablet-like touchscreens rather than TV screens now, to fit young viewers’ video-watching experience. “The updates are slight,” Garfield says. “It really has stayed true to the original.”
Another benefit to the series, from S&S’s point of view, is how well-known it is, even having been off the air for close to 15 years. “The brand had a pretty high awareness in terms of sell-in,” Garfield says. “We didn’t have to explain to any buyers what it is; they know it. It would be like having to explain Mickey Mouse.”